Signs of change

This digital billboard is one of two on 16th Street across from Yuma Palms Regional Center.

The city of Yuma is looking at an ordinance which would make it easier for some billboards to be replaced in the city, while adding new regulations pertaining specifically to digital billboards.

This follows up on a February 2015 vote which outlawed billboards, also known as off-site signs, in the city's general commercial zoning district, while continuing to allow them in light and heavy industrial areas. Existing signs in commercial areas could stay where they were but couldn't be replaced or modified.

According to a city staff report, there are now about 165 billboards across the city, including a few digital ones which have been installed along 16th Street within the last couple of years.

Under the proposed ordinance, which was introduced in front of the City Council at its April 20 meeting and is due for its final vote May 4, those which are within commercial areas and therefore no longer permitted under the code could be replaced if some limitations are met.

The new one will have to be smaller, unless it's replacing one that's 5 feet high by 11 feet wide, in which case it can be replaced by a like-sized surface. Also, if the new billboard is digital, the owner must relinquish two non-conforming billboards in exchange, and must comply with all current regulations.

Those signs which are within industrial areas but don't conform to other rules regarding placement and concentration of billboards can't be replaced, and must be taken down if the cost of repairs is more than 50 percent of its total value.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-0 recommending approval of the new ordinance, and Brandy Wright, general manager of Del Outdoor Advertising, said at the council meeting her company had worked with city staff on the changes, and she was in favor of them.

Mayor Doug Nicholls asked, "And so, you're completely comfortable with this?"

She responded, "I am, and I appreciate everyone at the city who has worked with us to move forward with this text amendment. It will help Del Outdoor grow, or at least stay in the community and be able to grow and not deplete assets, as what the current ordinance does right now."

Sharon Casas of Lamar Advertising Yuma-El Centro said Friday she hadn't been aware of the pending changes, but at her first look she didn't have any issue with them.

"When the current ordinance was passed in 2015, it came as a complete surprise and really dampened any plans we had to convert structures and expand our current inventory; with our growing community the demand is definitely there for more available space.

"We are very pleased to learn that the city is proposing to amend the current ordinance and give us as a sign company the opportunity to build new and update our current inventory," she said.

The amendment also reduces the maximum height for most billboards from 35 feet to 27 feet or the height of the tallest building on the property, whichever is lower. Those adjacent to an interstate highway retain the 35-foot maximum height. The minimum height from the street to the base of the sign is now 15 feet, to discourage graffiti and other vandalism.

Most other changes are additional regulations specific to digital billboards, including a definition, limits on brightness, a requirement they be shut off from midnight to 6 a.m. (as with lighting on non-digital billboards), an eight-second minimum for each advertisement and a ban on animation or similar effects.

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